Problems and Purpose
Participatory budget of the Municipality of Mira (Venice) 38,000 inhabitants and 31,000 voters located in the southwestern area of the Metropolitan City of Venice. It is a BP in the second year of activation, with a budget of € 100,000 (doubled compared to the first year), 0.18% of revenue, which reached 950 votes in the final participation, 3% of the voters (the vote was reserved only for residents of age). The BP model of the new administration, led by the young mayor M5S Alvise Maniero (26 years old, graduating in Political Science at the University of Padua), has the following characteristics:
- that the areas of intervention concern investment expenses aimed at maintenance interventions of the body's assets, urban quality as well as purchases of equipment and durable goods;
- that the amount of economic resources to be allocated to the participated procedure is equal to €. 100,000.00 to be identified in the context of the budget for 2017;
- that in the involvement of citizens a sample of the population is identified, to be drawn by lot from the municipal registry, represented by a target of about 1000 citizens aged 18 and over, coming homogeneously from the different fractions / localities of the territory, in compliance equal opportunities;
- to provide for the binding character for the Administration of the decisions taken by citizens in the context of the participatory procedure;
- to establish that the realization of the winning project must not involve current expenses reflected in the municipal budget (cit., Del. G. 172/16, p.4);
Background History and Context
In 1871, Mira was a town in the immediate southern Venetian hinterland, which had 8,600 inhabitants. Since then it has grown smoothly and in a linear manner until the 1980s, taking the form of a typical small town in the metropolitan area, and then stop and have a strong resumption of growth from 2001 to 2011 with strong immigration, reaching 38,000 inhabitants. of today.
The Municipality of Mira can be considered a depressed area. There have never been any long-term projects aimed at improving the lives of citizens; we have never had decent sports facilities, there are no high schools, there is a theater with a season limited to evenings that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Citizenship is resigned to the fact of living in a dormitory country and has no expectations also because it is quite easy to leave one's country and take advantage of initiatives and services that are found in neighboring municipalities where the perception of "country" was stronger and therefore they are more committed to safeguarding local identities and therefore also services. Mira is a territory of passage, grown with a population that served labor in Porto Marghera and other neighboring industrial locations, with the need to have a house of their own, a car, compulsory school for the children who then leave in Mestre, Mirano, Dolo, to study and very often to work. In the electoral programs, low expectations were given to citizens, limited and not very ambitious (interview of 20/3/2017).
Characterized by a large working population due to the presence of the large chemical industry of detergents and soaps (Mira Lanza, later Reckitt Benckiser) from 1970 to 1992, it has always been led by leftist junctions (PCI, PSI). After a brief interlude from 1992 to 1993 where a mayor supported by DC, Lega Nord and Verdi prevailed, the center left always prevailed until 2012. In the 2012 elections after a first round in which the mayor Carpinetti, re-nominated with the Democratic Party and a list composed of SEL, IdV, PRC, PdCI, UdC, reaches 43% (with 7,848 votes), the center-left is beaten in the ballot by the candidate of the 5 Star Movement with 8,102 votes (52%) compared to 7,334 (47.51%) taken up by Carpinetti, higher in percentage but not sufficient to compensate for the lower turnout (-11%) and the massive influx towards the young Alvise Maniero (26 years old in 2012) who got only 3,169 votes (17.37%) in the first round.
The reason for the defeat does not have a clear charge because from the article read in Gazzettino.it (8/1/2015) it seems that the outgoing mayor is not being prosecuted but goes to Rome to script his book, in which he tells a little autobiographically of the history of Mira's trade unionism (of which he, 46, would be heir, being a leader of the CGIL in Rome), of the errors of the left and of the return of ordinary man. He also speaks of "a pd torn by spite and quarrels" which evokes two years before the events, an admirable prophecy! The former mayor is also an employee of the Ville Venete regional institute (interview with a participant dated 20/3/2017).
From the vision of the programs it does not appear that the BP was on the list of commitments to be undertaken. Even the topic "Municipality & Citizens" is not at the top and in any case deals with "Audio and video recording of municipal councils" [...], "proposal for a cap for management salaries of municipal companies and for elected positions public ”, and so on. It appears largely as a wish list reported as such in the program after the counting of a questionnaire campaign (M5S, 2012, p. 3).
The center-left program, in addition to being more accurate in terminology, albeit cautiously, intended to pursue a policy of:
PARTICIPATION AND TRANSPARENCY - The Participation Councils must be completed, a greater involvement of associations, councils, committees and citizens in the hamlets, finding moments of comparison and participation in the planning of the forecast budget and in strategic choices for the city. This is an indispensable objective of a further expansion of social participation, also through activity in civic centers and other locations, as a moment of aggregation of young people, the elderly, and different groups.
It is also essential to continue with administrative transparency, as already done in online terms of administrators' incomes, tender procedures and comprehensive information on the activities of all sectors of the Municipality.
From this point of view, the evaluation of instituting the registration of Online Councils is an important step for the active participation of citizens (cit., Center-left Program, 2012, p. 2).
It is from this quite paradoxical situation that in the third year (2015) of its inauguration, the BP in Mira is started, with € 50,000 to be made available for projects carried out only by young people (population aged 15 to 29), on which then all voted. But why does this happen three years after his inauguration? And why only young people? We are not sure that this is the only reason, but it seems that the council for the first and perhaps also for the second year, could not work in complete serenity because on the evening of 20 July 2012, a few months after the election, a dramatic case involved the administration. A boy climbed onto the glass roof of the municipal swimming pool closed for renovation and fell, remaining quadriplegic. The mayor, two municipal managers, the pool manager and three technicians were investigated. The parents, after the first filing, asked for an appeal and the trial at the time of the article in the Fatto Quotidiano (17/5/2016) was still in progress.
In the first edition, participation in the development of projects was only open to proposals from young people (from 15 to 29) and a reason for this radical choice could have been precisely the fact that happened to that young man who was seriously injured. Probably the mayor, being young, perceived a widespread unease or a need for reconciliation, in any case we should continue with the investigation .
In the second edition, on the other hand, participation in the development of projects was open to proposals from all (with some exclusions - see Selection of participants) “resident adults, Italian and non-Italian” (Municipality of Mira, letter prot. 58221/2015).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The BP was organized by the Municipality of Mira. On the page of the municipal website you can read the Chapter "Costs: no cost" (See attached image> link ) and yet it has always been stated from the first experience that the task of taking care of the process has been entrusted to a facilitator external to the administration ( Del. G. n.172 / 2016, p. 2). From an interview on 2/3/2017 it emerges that the facilitation of the process was entrusted (in 2016) through a public tender and selection of applications to an external professional (Dr. Gramaglia) for the amount of about 5,000 Euros and that in the as a whole, the project nevertheless entailed an operational involvement of municipal managers and new internal organizational tasks which required greater coordination, hours of work and expenses for communication.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants are divided into 4 phases. The first information phase is open to all.
The second design phase is reserved for a sample made up of those who agree to be involved in 4-5 meetings with the administration technicians. This invitation is forwarded to a stratified random sample (based on age, gender and location) of 1000 residents. Access to this group, however - as noted in the invitation letter - is excluded according to the following criteria:
- anyone holding positions of a political nature in the national territory [...];
- anyone holding positions on the boards of directors of companies, organizations, consortia and foundations with public participation;
- those who hold positions in executive bodies of political parties, trade unions, professional orders and colleges, trade associations;
- presidents of voluntary associations present in the municipal area;
- employees of the Municipality - employees of the companies in which the Municipality has a stake are admitted (Municipality of Mira, letter of invitation, 2015).
It is not reported on the site how many citizens, at the end of the recruitment phase, were actually recruited. Not being able to complete the sample with the adhesions on selective invitation, we proceeded to complete the group with spontaneous applications and targeted solicitations (as per interview, see above).
The third phase of project presentation is open to all and the fourth phase, of project voting, is open to all resident adults.
The exclusion of the traditional representatives of the stakeholders from the planning phase was intentionally oriented to the selection of people less accustomed to political negotiation, therefore less conditioned by factional interests or blocked on ideological positions, to bring them closer to the common good and facilitate comparison. from a deliberative point of view. However, the project was first presented to the decentralized participation organizations, "le Consulte" (both thematic and neighborhood, formed by representatives of associations and area representatives) with which it was made to understand that they would contribute to the success of the path by soliciting its own network of associates and contacts to participate (both in the planning phase and in the voting phase), perhaps bringing project ideas discussed first in their offices and then mobilizing the vote. In this way democratic participation would be stimulated even in those seats of civil society that should formally cultivate it but sometimes not enough. This is deduced from the complete reading of the process (Comune di Mira, project, 2016) and its notices. Another deducible and more explicit interpretation could be that according to which the choice was coherent with a strategy in order not to have to share a path and therefore to be filled with the planning groups of citizens linked to a fairly strong fabric of civic participation like the Venetian one, belonging , for the most part, to the center-left; therefore inducing a nudge, pushing with a forcing, towards a replacement or reshuffling of the Italian voluntary service network, which very often reproduces patronage or hierarchical logics (paternalistically democratic) and is not very inclined to public participation [ed].
Methods and Tools Used
The participatory budget (BP) is a method of participation born in Porta Alegre in Brazil in the eighties, which provides for the making available to the public decision, a percentage of the municipal budget. The opening phases are generally organized with public assemblies open to all in the various areas of the city / territory where the problems and needs of the inhabitants arise, as well as possible solutions. Public assemblies usually include an introduction or a political greeting and are then facilitated. In some cases, in these assemblies the representatives are elected or - as in the case in question - they are drawn by lot on the basis of the candidacies, those who will discuss in the next phase which projects and interventions to propose and plan. These proposals are examined by the municipal technical officials who evaluate their feasibility, making them continue to the next stage of selection. In the final assemblies open to all, again, the proposals to be implemented are voted. In recent years, online voting has been increasingly used.
Collaborative design means a wide range of discussion workshops in which - as in the case in question - technicians who are professionally involved in preparing plans or projects, discuss, discuss and try to share with other citizens (non-technicians or technicians in as citizens) the objectives and the more or less detailed design of a public act / action.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The interaction takes place in 4 different phases, over a period of about 4 months.
In the first phase of information, explanations are provided on the path, what are the objectives and the method of the process, through public meetings. The phase consists of classic assemblies in the presence of the representatives of the authority (elected officials and officials). The first meeting was held on 4/2/16. There is no information on the number of participants or minutes of the meetings.
The second phase that starts after the recruitment of the stratified random sample, inviting 1000 individuals, will start the planning groups in 3 consecutive meetings (18/2, 17/3 and 31/3 see Calendar of meetings for those who have joined) who together with the technicians, in a comparison of design and selection of projects ( collaborative design ), draw up the "shortlist of projects". "In this phase, the municipal managers are directly involved," who will take turns in providing a synthetic picture of the operation of the Municipality based on the existing organizational structure, summarily outlining the main activities of competence and the budget planning of the institution and then outlining the various areas intervention which will concern, as in the first experience of participatory budgeting, the investment expenses aimed at maintenance interventions of the institution's assets, urban quality as well as purchases of equipment and durable goods. In particular the Executives with the support of sector technicians will present the areas interested and interesting for participation "(Municipality of Mira, project 2nd edition, 2016, p. 4)." The municipal offices concerned will analyze the project ideas that emerged in these laboratories, expressing, following a careful internal analysis that may also require technical-economic checks and any inspections, a a feasibility assessment. [...] However, a specific meeting will be organized to explain the reasons for the feasibility or otherwise of the project ideas analyzed, motivating the reasons. The reasons for the yes and no will be represented to the participants in a clear and transparent way with the help of the technicians "(Ib., P.5) ̀. There is no information on the number of participants or minutes of the meetings.
3. Public presentation of projects
In a penultimate phase that takes place with the meeting on 14/4, "the participants will therefore be made responsible in deciding the shortlist of final projects to be transferred by the technicians in project cards describing the title, the activities and the functional works to the realization of the proposal, as well as indicative of the estimate of the necessary economic resources. Finally, in a special public meeting, the Administration will present, with the possible support of the participants supporting the competing ideas, the list of final projects that can be financed to be submitted to a vote by all citizens. The documentation drawn up on the final projects to be put to the vote will be communicated to the citizens through various communication tools (institutional website, press releases, information, etc ...) "(Ib., P. 5). There is no information on the number of participants, nor minutes of the meetings.
Finally, we move on to popular vote from 15 to 30 to draw them. “The competing proposals will be available on the Municipality's website and at the various voting centers (eg: Urp, Biblioteca di Mira and Oriago).
All adult citizens residing in Mira, Italian and non-Italian, will be able to vote. Each citizen will be able to cast only one vote.
Since only one vote is allowed for a specific project in the case of an electronic and paper vote, the one expressed in paper form will prevail ”(Ib., P.5). Yet then only the traditional ballot ballot was opted for at the premises of the URP and municipal libraries, during normal opening hours to the public, over a period of 2 weeks (Municipality of Mira, final vote information, 2016) .
From the moment the list of projects candidates for the vote is defined, groups of supporters of their project spontaneously form and carry out a mini-election campaign, both by going to the streets to talk to people and with various multimedia means (video> link ).
Finally, on 13/5 the results of the vote are presented in a further public meeting. The most voted project with 319 votes in 2016 is "a new venue for water sports", in fact in Mira you can practice rowing, kayaking and you can go boating and there is a very respectable youth team. The runner-up, but not funded, concerned "the redevelopment of the former rugby field" with 205 votes. There is no information on the number of participants and no minutes of the meeting.
A formal monitoring procedure related to the implementation of winning projects was not foreseen by the project and is absent in the communications of the site. The quick survey of a social network (Facebook) was attempted but did not yield results in this regard.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The influence should be high, given the commitment publicly expressed in the project: "provide for the binding character for the Administration of the decisions taken by citizens in the context of the participatory procedure" (cit., Del. G. 172/16, p .4). Furthermore, as in all cases of BP, the final preference count (see above) has a very high symbolic influence on public perception and the consequent actions of the administration. The ritual of public presentation of the results (see above) should also increase his political accountability.
However, at the moment an update on the progress of the projects voted cannot be found on the Municipality's web pages.
From an interview with an official on 2/3/2017 it emerges that in the first year, the youth project entered the budget and was largely carried out. The 2016 winning project (new headquarters for water sports) is in the process of implementation and bureaucratic completion as regards the 1st executive excerpt and the call for tenders for the works, even if the amount made available will not succeed. to fully cover the realization of the overall idea. This statement was not commented further by the interviewee and it is impossible not to ask what might happen. From a second interview with a participant it emerges that:
"the technical office of the Public Works sector has hired an external designer (with a fee of € 100,000) to work on the most suitable project for the amount. Drawing inspiration from a previous project presented by the Canoa Club some time ago ( project already paid for by the Canoa club Oriago), the designer has developed a project for the construction of a headquarters consisting of 4 containers resting on a concrete platform that will house two changing rooms with bathrooms and showers, with a small office for secretarial use. of the area, electricity and water connections. Cost of work € 76,000 (as can be seen from the site of the municipality under the section calls and tenders). The canoe shelter remains outside (which must be covered and closable given the value of the boats), laundry area and gym area (initially present in the Club project).
The tender for the assignment of the works was opened in December 2016 (under penalty of the destiny of the money to another expense item) and the envelopes for the assignment of the company were opened at the beginning of March (one month later than expected) . According to the time schedule, the works should last about two months; if all goes well, the headquarters should be ready by June. I am trying to get answers on the drafting of a convention as the project defined the purpose but not the association to which the seat will be assigned. I had reassurance from the commissioner who mainly dealt with the Budget (Spolaore, Equal Opportunities) that we will proceed with the drafting. I also had a meeting with the councilor for sport, Sanginitti, to try to plead the cause from the competitive side, without positive results, only good intentions. So, now (and as always) everything is in the hands of the officials of the Public Works sector who determine technical choices and, apparently, even political choices, in the sense that the implementation times of the projects are given by the schedule that the office determines. A real time schedule has never been published in writing; even if requested, we were only given information by word of mouth. And always, all the information, the meetings, were given and obtained after my solicitation / request "(interview of 20/3/2017).
It is considered quite serious that projects are not followed by a formal monitoring procedure with official notices on the project website.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The process model adopted avoids - or rather - excludes the direct involvement of traditional stakeholders, organized civil society, at least in the figures of its legal representatives. It is aimed at citizens without public office because - according to the creators - "this approach makes it possible to know with a good approximation what the informed opinion of a community would be if it were possible to involve all citizens in an in-depth face-to-face discussion about a specific issue (which, even if only for practical-logistical reasons, is not possible). As we can see, this is an approach that constitutes an advancement with respect to the assembly model, in which there is no confrontation, but confrontation, and whose self-selected participants are representative only of themselves: a participation that in reality appears very little democratic and even less productive ”(Municipality of Mira, project, 2016, p. 3). By "assembly model" we mean, in common jargon - perhaps more in Veneto than elsewhere - a way of discussing for assemblies open to all, always attended by the usual citizens who are more active in public speeches, which in reality are not representative of the overwhelming silent majority.
According to a participant interviewed, the experience of comparison with others was positive, and gave her the opportunity to understand and affect the audience.
"The position of the audience with regard to the participatory budget was also uneven; I have always been convinced that if the administration had proposed this project to citizens, the one on which we had to work was on proposals that went beyond ordinary and extraordinary maintenance and on how much the Municipality had in any case to take charge as a competence I have always firmly rejected all the proposals that provided for the asphalting of the roads to cover the potholes, the emergency exits still missing in some schools, the extraordinary lighting of the streets, etc. If any administration needs citizens to decide for this type of intervention, it has failed in its office and proves that it is unable to manage even the aspects that the laws and codes impose on it "(interview of 20/3/2017 ).
Given this approach, the effects of the model on the participation strategies in the BP of local associations (the winner of 2016 was a project concerning a sports association) and of the actors in general (including neighborhood committees) and any their reactions to hypothetical raising of the stakes. For example, one wonders how much they shared the model of selection of the sample that forms the design group that if entrusted only to chance or to individual availability could exclude some interest group, perhaps numerically weak because it is a minority territorially or socially, but bearer of arguments or significant ideas. In reality, more structured or less structured associations, as well as parties, can easily mobilize and send their affiliates as non-executives, in such a way that their ability to "representively" activate the territory can also be effectively tested. The number of the sample of 1000 citizens is so large and since spontaneous applications are also accepted, this formally guarantees the non-exclusion of those who are outside the criteria already set out (see Selection of participants above).
The mobilization of associations is confirmed but it is not taken for granted and is always linked to the initiative and passion of individual figures.
"in this context it was difficult to talk to our fellow citizens and persuade them to vote (around 1000 votes for all projects are a disappointing result in my opinion compared to the number of voters). So, on the one hand there was the surprise to hear that someone asked for an opinion on how to spend money (the culture of delegation has caused damage especially locally where one should be more vigilant), on the other hand they wondered why that money was not used for real needs and the list in Mira I have had some clashes, always within the limits of good education and friendship, with friends who deal with other sports clubs who live every year the nightmare of the assignments of conventions, of the breakdowns of the already dilapidated sports facilities that the Municipality does not repair, migrations to other municipalities in order to find homologous plants for the various championships, which were not very inclined to give me a hand, in the final phase of voting. because it was difficult to understand the meaning of removing resources that could be useful elsewhere from an already thin dish.
[...] It was not even easy to convince the participants in the BP to support my project, precisely because it was oriented towards an activity that actually involved a small group of citizens, but which was going to give a place to a sports group that gives over 20 years he participates in national and international competitions, which has led local sportsmen to compete and emerge, bringing World and European titles to Mira. The fact is that I succeeded and then the great convincing work to get friends / relatives / acquaintances to vote in the final phase did the rest "(interview of 20/3/2017).
The aspects to be explored therefore concern the monitoring of the winning projects, the involvement of citizens-planners and their stakeholders in the actual and executive project phase and public information on their progress.
"Whether it is the political part but above all the functional part (the technical offices), the citizen feels like an intruder, potentially a source of extra work, which is not a good feeling ... At this moment I am discouraged: the times implementation are ridiculous and I find myself without knowing what to do to speed up the work. In two months the junta will expire and I will not even have certain interlocutors in the political part "(interview of 20/3/2017).
Il Fatto Quotidiano, 17/5/2016, M5s, the mayor of Mira is on trial. Pd: "The criterion of the staff for expulsions is loyalty to Grillo"> http: //www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2016/05/17/m5s-il-sindaco-di-mira-ea-pr ...
Gazzettino.it, 8/1/2015. The former mayor of Mira Michele Carpinetti returns to his usual passions, film directing and issues related to work, social life and the contradictions of politics, http: //ilgazzettino.it/pay/venezia_pay/l_ex_sindaco_di_mira_michele_carp ... ( release 3/3/17).
M5S (Movimento 5 Stelle), Mira 5 Stelle, Municipal elections program, Municipality of Mira, 2012 www.beppegrillo.it/listeciviche/liste/mira/Programma%20M5S%20Mira%202012 ...
Center-left coalition program, Administrative elections of 06/21 May 2012 www.partitodemocraticovenezia.it/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ProgrammaGen ...
Documents produced by the public administration
Council resolution, n ° 172 of 20/10/2016, Approval of the 3rd edition participatory budget project: addresses www.comune.mira.ve.it/public/dgc_172_del_20102016.pdf
Municipality of Mira, Letter of invitation, "I WILL PARTICIPATE!" - Invitation to participate in the second Participatory Budgeting experience of the Municipality of Mira, prot. n. 58221, 23/12/2015 www.comune.mira.ve.it/public/documenti/Settore1/lettera_invito_2016_dest ...
Municipality of Mira, 2nd edition project, 2016 www.comune.mira.ve.it/public/documenti/Settore1/progettobilanciopartecip ...
Municipality of Mira, Information on final vote, 2016 www.comune.mira.ve.it/public/ssdd/informativa_votazione_bilancio_parteci ...
Video of a 2016 BP candidate project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5g0Zg5TE7k&t=8s
Website page of the Municipality of Mira - Participatory budget https://www.comune.mira.ve.it/index.php?area=1&menu=546
 It should be noted that this deduction was not suggested by the interview of 2/3/2017 that such news had not reported.